Challenge of the Abstract
The scene is dinnertime. My son had just discovered a computer game involving food preparation and ratings. Interrupting him for dinner, he comes to the table excitedly announcing what he’s going to be when he grows up. This is a monumental moment for him… the first inclination of a future aspiration I’ve heard him utter! I’ve suggested many many many career ideas through the years. His sisters have lists of professions and credentials they hope to achieve, so many that one of them has an “eternity list” of things she has already conceded won’t get done on earth and are reserved for heaven.
Aidan’s declaration? A Food Critic.
This is his new ambition. Perfect for him. He loves food. He loves reality game shows. The judging. The competition.
But I have to ask. Not because I don’t believe that the sacred can be found and brought to the secular, but because the kids needed to chew on this.
“How are you going to make a positive impact on the world by being a food critic?”
He is stumped. “Not be so harsh on the ones who make bad food?”
The girls rush to justify their choices, all of which involve an element of caring for less fortunate humans and animals. Then I am blamed for choosing easy professions (according to my question)… ministry, nonprofits, etc. Aidan struggles to find meaning in his plans as I grab a Bible and turn to Philippians.
We talk about being like Christ, who even though he was God, humbled himself, even to death on the cross. I ask, to no avail, what is a way that being a food critic could be like bringing the kingdom of God to earth? Again, Aidan thinks soft, gentle, not the Iron Chef.
And so I turn to Micah. What is required of us? Sacrifices? Thousands of rivers of oil? Our firstborn? No, to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. What is this saying guys?
Sophie asks, “What does justice mean?”
I give it one more try, agonizing over the abstract thinking I want them to have, stubborn in my refusal to let them be so concrete. Does it matter what we do or how we do it? Who we are as we do it?
This falls on mildly confused Sophie who just learned that the essence of justice is fairness. It falls on Ella, who has mistaken humbly to mean sacrifice and is praising me for cooking them meals. It falls on Aidan, who really just wants to eat lots of food and be paid for it.
But it sinks into my heart and nudges into the vacant places of my soul. I ponder the words of Micah. And later, I pick up One Thousand Gifts (for the third read) and am drawn to Mother Teresa’s words: “The work we do is only our love for Jesus in action. If we pray the work…if we do it to Jesus, if we do for Jesus, if we do it with Jesus… that’s what makes us content.” Sacred in the secular.
Parenting myself, I tell you. These are lessons for my soul, if not comprehended by my three charges.